Are you thinking about vaping in a hotel room but not sure if that might get you into hot water with the hotel or perhaps even the law?
In this article, I’ll take a detailed look at whether or not hotels will know if you have been vaping in your room.
I’ll cover a few different ways that they can tell if you are vaping and give you some factors to consider before you choose to violate a hotel’s policy on vaping.
Table of Contents
General advice on vaping in hotels
As vaping has become more popular, more businesses including hotels, are lumping vaping with smoking in terms of their policies on prohibiting them.
Sometimes this is done explicitly but other times it is implicit. If you are ever in doubt you can simply call the hotel and inquire about their vaping policy or ask the front desk.
There is a lot of debate on whether or not vaping should be lumped in with smoking considering how different they can be depending on the substance.
However, a lot of hotels and localities just are not interested in taking a super nuanced approach into the matter and so you can expect smoking and vaping to be considered the same.
This is important because a lot of hotels have no smoking policies. Or, if they do allow smoking it is only in certain rooms or in certain areas of the hotel such as an outdoor patio or deck.
Nevertheless, because vaping is not detected as easily as smoking a lot of people still choose to vape in their hotel room even when the hotel has a policy against it.
So what could happen if you did choose to break the rules? Is it possible for a hotel to know that you have vaped? Let’s take a look.
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How hotels can know you have been vaping
A lot of vapes are odorless and so unlike smoking, they typically are not detectable by scent alone.
Even some vapes that do have a scent do not necessarily scream “vape sent.”
So if the hotel is going to catch you vaping it’s usually not by smell.
However, if you were vaping non-odorless marijuana, that has one of the most recognizable odors and could possibly be detected.
A fresh rip of a vape containing THC or even CBD could definitely be detected by someone who knows the smell, especially if there is dry herb involved.
Related: Can You Smoke Weed in a Hotel Room?
If you’ve been hitting your vape pretty hard there’s a good chance you have vape clouds visible in your hotel room. All it takes is one surprise visit by a staff member for them to figure out that you were vaping in your room.
For example, some hotels send someone to check on you shortly after check-in or to bring you a gift and these people often arrive unexpectedly.
Another situation is you may have forgotten that you requested extra towels, ordered water bottles, etc.
The point is that you can tell if someone has been vaping just by using your eyes in some cases and it’s not always easy to predict when a hotel staff member will come knocking on your door.
Also, if you are vaping close to your check-out time your clouds could linger by the time the cleaning crew comes in.
Related: TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes
Hotels are required to have smoke detectors so that they can prevent catastrophic outcomes from fires. In a hotel room you may find multiple smoke detectors depending on the size of the room/suite.
They usually can be anywhere except the bathroom (because the steam from the shower can set them off).
There are different types of smoke detectors and they typically work by sensing small particles in the air which could indicate smoke from a fire.
Ionization detectors produce a small electric current flowing from one plate to the other. When enough particles enter the chamber and reduce the current below a certain amount, the alarm will sound.
Photoelectric alarms work by detecting light that is reflected off particles from a light beam inside the sensing chamber. These are said to be the most common smoke alarms found in hotels although that might vary by location.
There is also something called a heat alarm that detects temperature in a room as an indication of smoke or a fire. These are not very common and you probably will not encounter them in a hotel unless your hotel has a kitchen as that is where they are normally used.
But can these traditional smoke alarms detect vapes? The answer is yes, but only sometimes.
In a typical scenario, you probably need a lot of vape clouds and you also need to be close to the smoke alarm in order to trigger it.
A simple hit or two from a small vape pen is not likely to trigger a smoke alarm unless you are blowing the vape very close to the alarm device or you have a powerful vape capable of producing huge clouds.
But if you are a chain vaping and forming clouds that are filling up the room, even if you are quite a bit of distance away from the smoke alarm, you could still trigger it.
Of course, other factors will come in to play like open windows, fans, AC vents, etc.
If you’re dealing with the heat alarm vapes typically do not emit high temperature vapor and so the risk of you triggering a heat alarm is probably pretty low.
I’ve seen mixed reports about which type of smoke alarm is more sensitive to vape: photoelectric or ionization.
Regardless of which one is more sensitive, it’s worth noting that some fire alarms are simply programmed to be more sensitive than others. And sometimes the range of that sensitivity can be pretty dramatic.
This is what makes vaping in a hotel room truly risky — you never know how sensitive that device is going to be.
Alarms that detect vapes
There are new alarms getting installed that do detect vapes.
It seems that the focus for these alarms is usually at schools and universities where younger people might be engaged in vaping.
But that doesn’t mean that some hotels might not be interested in installing them in the future.
It’s probably rare that you would encounter these at this point but I’d wager that these alarms are probably an order of magnitude more sensitive to vape than traditional smoke alarms.
So if you do run into one of these, they might be significantly more sensitive than smoke alarms you’ve dealt with in the past, making it much more likely that you will get caught by the hotel.
Avoiding getting caught and knowing the risks
My personal advice would be to just abide by the rules set out by hotels when it comes to smoking and vaping.
Nevertheless, I know some people will still try to get away with vaping.
If you are going to risk it I think you should at least be aware of the risks that you are facing when doing so and I’m going to talk about some of those below.
Turning off the alarm
Removing or turning off a smoke alarm in a hotel room is a pretty horrible idea.
Not only is there the obvious safety risk to yourself and other guests but lots of hotels have sophisticated systems that will alert them that a smoke alarm has been disabled.
In some cases, this could be a silent alert so you wouldn’t even know that it’s going on.
They may be able to see exactly what was disabled and where.
You could be kicking back in your hotel room enjoying your vape while an entire crew is headed to your room to investigate the issue or potentially even perform some sort of rescue.
Not only will you end up in an embarrassing situation but you could be fined or as you’ll see below, forced to serve jail time for tampering with a fire alarm.
Covering the smoke alarm
Another tactic that some people resort to is covering up the smoke alarm.
People resort to various methods to do this but they include taking something like a shower cap and covering up the smoke alarm. Others might use a grocery bag with a rubber band. The methods are pretty much endless.
This is a bad idea because you are tampering with a smoke alarm which could be a crime depending on where you are.
For example, take a look at the California Penal Code which states:
148.4. (a) Any person who does any of the following is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail, not exceeding one year, or by a fine, not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment:
(1) Willfully and maliciously tampers with, molests, injures, or breaks any fire protection equipment, fire protection installation, fire alarm apparatus, wire, or signal.
(2) Willfully and maliciously sends, gives, transmits, or sounds any false alarm of fire, by means of any fire alarm system or signal or by any other means or methods.
(b) Any person who willfully and maliciously sends, gives, transmits, or sounds any false alarm of fire, by means of any fire alarm system or signal, or by any other means or methods, is guilty of a felony and upon conviction is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 or by a fine of not less than five hundred dollars ($500) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment, if any person sustains as a result thereof, any of the following:
(1) Great bodily injury.
The law firm website linked above specifically mentions messing with a “smoke detector” as an example so I don’t think this statute would only apply to fire alarms.
So you could literally spend up to a year in jail for willfully and maliciously tampering with the fire alarm. And if you set off a chain of events that resulted in someone getting hurt really bad or killed, you could also be guilty of a felony.
Another reason not to do it is it could be very easy to forget that you covered the smoke alarm and therefore you could be putting yourself and everyone else staying at that hotel in danger.
And remember those unexpected visits from hotel staff, you never know when someone might approach your room.
There are some reports that some alarms can now detect if they are covered although I’m not sure about that.
But the takeaway here is that tampering with a fire alarm is just a horrible idea that could land you in jail or with a hefty fine.
The shower steam method
One popular method that people resort to when trying to vape without detection is to turn on the hot shower in the bathroom.
They let it run for several minutes and then vape in the bathroom so that their vapor is essentially masked by the hot water vapor from the shower.
I don’t think many people argue that this is not an effective method but there is one major problem with this. Unless you are in the process of taking a shower, it really is an incredible waste of energy and water. This is especially true if you are living in areas experiencing drought.
Another thing to consider is that you could be contributing to indoor air pollution and affecting the air quality for other guests.
Some of the chemicals from your vape may even land on furniture that future guests will be coming into contact with. These people may even have a certain sensitivities that you could be triggering. Remember, many hotels do not wash the bedding between stays.
Vaping from the balcony
If your hotel room is smoke-free that includes the balcony. So vaping from a balcony would be a violation.
Realistically though, unless someone has direct sight of you vaping, it’s pretty much impossible for someone to know that you were vaping in an outdoor balcony.
If it’s at night and you have a good amount of privacy on your balcony, your chances of getting caught would be extremely low.
This would probably be the safest way to “break the rules” since you don’t have to tamper with a smoke alarm, risk contaminating your room, or get wasteful with water and heat.
What happens if you get caught?
If you get caught vaping in a hotel room the most likely outcome would be you getting hit with a cleaning fee. This fee could easily be $200 to $300.
In the more extreme case, such as you causing a significant amount of damage to the hotel room, a property might decide to charge you for the damage and ban you.
If you have been tampering with the smoke alarm and it is illegal to do that where you are, it’s possible you could be faced with criminal charges.
There may also be some type of fine involved if the statute permits or if you forced emergency services to mobilize due to the alarm.
Hotels often treat vaping like smoking which means that if the hotel allows you to smoke you probably can vape in there as well.
However, a lot of hotels prohibit smoking which means that they will not allow you to vape in your hotel room.
It’s entirely possible to vape in a hotel room without being detected in a lot of cases.
Most smoke alarms probably will not be triggered unless you are vaping heavy amounts or are close to them. There is usually a lack of odor and it’s just not very difficult to be discreet with a vape.
With that said, anytime you enter a public area you need to consider how your actions may affect others.
Whether it be contributing to indoor air pollution, wasting resources trying to mask your vape clouds, or tampering with fire alarms, trying to conceal your vaping can have negative consequences on other people.
At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you are someone who wants to put your vaping needs above the safety and health needs of others.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.